The Life and Legacy of Johnstone

Johnstone, the center of student life at Clemson University for nearly half a century, was monumental in that it was more than simply a dorm, it was part of what made Clemson, Clemson.

Johnstone was a massive structure enveloping almost all of Clemson’s core campus; within it there was the University Post Office, Harcombe Dining Hall, the Student Union, and the Quadrangle–set-up for cadet formations. The structure itself was built on a slope so while there are nine levels in the Johnstone complex, no building contains more than five of these floors so the sections were level. It is safe to say that Johnstone was the place to be, but not the best to live in, which is unfortunate because it housed many Clemson students during its time.

Johnstone was the first building to be desegregated on Clemson’s campus when Harvey Gantt came to the university and lived there as the first black student in 1963. There are countless stories of the thin walls, asbestos-filled ceilings, and the stench that engulfed Johnstone. Students have stated that the conditions were too rough for women, but in the early 1980s, Johnstone A was opened to women–the only section to ever allow women because it was the “nicest” of the six. While Johnstone was not the best place to live, it definitely built quite the community and people recollect fond memories of their time there.

Even for students who did not live in Johnstone, the building still made an impact on the college experience at Clemson. There are many alumni who account for the smell of walking through the loggia. Students could leave their doors unlocked and go to class without the threat of someone taking their property. The “tin cans” were a central hub for students living on campus, mainly because it was located at the center of campus.

In general, universities are a breeding ground for free thought and over time have been key instigators of movements for social justice. Clemson University is no stranger to movements of student expression and protest of social issues–and Johnstone, being the center of student life on campus, played a monumental role in activism itself as well as the impact that Clemson would have on the world.

As of now, the story of Johnstone Hall is still yet to be finished. Moving forward, the future of Johnstone truly is up in the air. But regardless, its presence at Clemson will forever and always be iconic, and its name will be remembered for generations to come.

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